Approach to the Study of Evidence
Definitions and Criminal Procedure
Distinctions Between Civil and Criminal Cases
1. The State is a party bringing criminal charges against a person or entity.
2. The accused has a presumption of innocence.
3. Proof is required “beyond a reasonable doubt”.
4. A unanimous verdict is generally required.
5. The State has no right of appeal from the verdict.
6. Weak evidence is given less weight.
1. A private party or entity is suing another over a private dispute.
2. Both parties start off on equal footing. Neither has a presumption in their favor.
3. Proof is required by “a preponderance of the evidence”.
4. Unanimity is not required- usually only 9 out of 12 jurors are required to agree to reach a verdict.
5. Either party may appeal on the same basis.
6. Weaker evidence can be given greater weight.
Comparison of Federal and State Systems
• US Atty is appointed by the President
• US Supreme Court
• 11 Appeals Courts called “Circuit Courts”
• We are in the 9th Circuit
• Trial Courts called “District Courts”
• Our District Court is in Fresno
• District Attorney elected in 58 counties
• Cal. Supreme Court
• 6 Appellate Districts with Courts of Appeals
• We are in the 5th AD.
• Trial Courts called “Superior Courts”
• Stanislaus Superior Court is in Modesto
• Proof- the establishment of a fact by evidence
• Evidence- means employed to prove or disprove a disputed or unknown fact.
• Testimonial- evidence from witnesses speaking under oath or affirmation
• Documentary- evidence furnished by written records, photos, audio or video tapes, CDs, DVDs, and computer media.
• Real- Physical evidence or things that have evidentiary value in and of themselves
Direct v. Circumstantial
•Direct- evidence which directly proves a fact without the need of any other facts; usually based on personal knowledge.
• It is evidence which by itself, if found to be true, establishes that fact.
• Circumstantial- evidence which depends on the proof of other facts which lead to the proof of the main fact; usually depends on the proof of “inferences”
• An inference is a deduction of fact that may logically and reasonably be drawn from another fact or group of facts established by the evidence.
• Each link in the chain must be proved “beyond a reasonable doubt”
Need for Direct Evidence
• It is not necessary that facts be proved by direct evidence.
• They also may be proved by circumstantial evidence alone or by a combination of direct and circumstantial evidence.
• Both direct and circumstantial evidence are acceptable as a means of proof. Neither is entitled to any greater weight than the other.
Evaluation of Circumstantial Evidence
• Must not able to reconcile with any other “rational” conclusion
• If there are 2 equally reasonable interpretations, defendant is given the benefit of the doubt.
Cumulative v. Corroborative
• Cumulative- evidence which goes to prove facts already established or repeats evidence already offered
• Corroborative- evidence which tends to support the proof of a fact by evidence of a different type or character
Prima Facie Evidence
• A preliminary showing sufficient to meet the minimum evidentiary standards
Relevant, Material, Competent Evidence
• Relevant- evidence having any tendency to make the existence of a fact of consequence more or less probable
• Material- having a substantial and significant influence on the issue
• Competent- evidence which meets the minimum standards of reliability
5 Reasons for Excluding Evidence
• Protecting special relationships
• Avoiding undue prejudice to the accused
• Keeping out unreliable evidence
• Enforcing constitutional safeguards
• Conserving time and resources
• Arraignment on Complaint
• Detention or Bail Review hearing
• Preliminary Hearing
• Grand Jury
• Arraignment on Indictment or Information
Criminal Procedure- Arraignment
Arraignment must occur w/i 48 hours of arrest
-Complaint with affidavits is filed
-defendant advised of rights
-attorney appointed or retained
-bail set or released pending trial
-set for preliminary hearing
Criminal Procedure- Detention
-judge or magistrate decides pretrial release conditions
-Federal: usually a separate hearing
-California: usually combined with arraignment
Criminal Procedure- Preliminary Hearing
• “Probable Cause” hearing
• Judge determines if there is “sufficient cause” to believe:
• a crime has been committed; and
• the defendant is the one who committed it.
• “Sufficient cause” is considerably less than “beyond a reasonable doubt”
• Must occur within 10 days if in custody
Differences between CA and Federal Court system
-PX required for both felonies and misdemeanors (other than petty offenses)
-all hearsay allowed and no evidentiary rules except privileges apply
-for felonies, a Grand Jury hearing is still required after a PX
-following a Grand Jury hearing, an “indictment” is filed.
-required for felonies only
-some hearsay is allowed but most rules of evidence still apply.
-a Grand Jury hearing is not required after a preliminary hearing (and vice-versa)
-following the PX, an “information” is filed
Grand Jury vs. PX
• No judge is present
• No defense atty or defendant present
• No cross exam
• Evidence is not challenged
• Judge present
• Defendant and atty present
• Witnesses are cross examined
• Admissibility of evidence may be challenged